By Rev SEIK PITOI
For some people, universities are places, not only of learning, but of protest marches, strikes and lawlessness in general. Unfortunately, that label has been given to our premier university by some people after certain unfortunate incidents occurred some years ago.
However, things are changing now. God is doing a new thing at the University of Papua New Guinea.
From April 9 to 11, a combined UPNG Chaplains’ Crusade was held on campus. The three-night crusade was held at the UPNG Games Village Hall and was hosted by the UPNG Student Services Division in conjunction with the chaplains and students from the Tertiary Students Christian Fellowship (TSCF). The theme of the crusade was Put God First, taken from Matthew Chapter 6 Verse 33.
The programme was made special as this was the first time for all parties to work together. Usually, church groups like to come to UPNG and run their own crusades or rallies. Student services officers, Ovasuru Kaira and George Hoki, who played a big part in liaising between the chaplains and TSCF, were pleased to see the unity that prevailed during the crusade.
“The culture at this university will change when God is given first place, and when we are united as one,” said Kaira.
Meanwhile, Hoki spoke about this special crusade being “a legacy at this university as something like this has never been done before.”
He said the unity of the churches was the catalyst to seeing something wonderful happen at UPNG.
The acting director of student services, Margaret Au, also expressed her appreciation to all parties concerned. In her welcome remarks, she said, “This is a first of its kind at this university. It is a joy to see everyone work together to make this event possible. I believe that is what God wants.
“And for students, you will do well to make sure that God is given first place in your lives. Put God first and see Him make a difference in all you do”.
This sentiment was echoed by Father Joseph Wojem, chaplain of the Catholic Church and chairman of the Chaplains’ Committee, who said. “I know you have assignments to work on but just take an hour to come every evening to worship God and hear His word. When you put God first in your studies and in your life, you will see the difference He can make.”
The three-night crusade saw over a hundred students in attendance each evening. The programme began every night with exuberant praise and worship led by TSCF musicians and singers. The nightly preaching of the word of God was by the chaplains – on Tuesday by the United Church chaplain, on Wednesday by Lutheran Church’s Rev Daryl Boyd, and on Thursday by the PNG Bible Church’s Rev Moresby Tunge.
The other chaplains will have their turn when the next crusade is organised later in the year. At the end of the three nights, more than 20 students surrendered their lives to Christ and were counselled by TSCF leaders. Many more students expressed their gratitude in having such a program organised to strengthen them in their walk with God.
The TSCF students, who had organised the sound system, musical equipment, worship leaders and singers, are a group of dedicated young Christian students. Their lives and conduct at the university are a blessing to see. On this occasion, their willingness to humble themselves and assist the chaplains every evening touched many hearts.
The president and his executives conducted the altar calls after each sermon, and those who responded were called aside for special prayer and counselling by the leaders. TSCF students come from various denominations and meet together regularly for worship and prayer, and to plan outreach ministry activities together. It is through their ministry that many of their friends and peers have come to accept Christ as their Lord and Saviour.
The past several weeks saw the university go through some major administrative and leadership changes. During the negotiations, there were some who thought the situation would probably end up like it used to in the past, with lawlessness ensuing.
However, Chaplains, Christian staff and students all stood together in prayer to seek a peaceful and amicable resolution to the problem. Thankfully, such was the case and classes returned to normal without any problems.
It was felt that this crusade would be an opportune time to honour God for His hand upon the university. It was also a good way to get students to see that the way of violence, strikes, and lawlessness are not God’s ways. God has a better way. The message on those three evenings resonated quite clearly, a reminder to students and the administration alike that putting God first in everything is the key to a harmonious and successful year at UPNG.
Indeed, with an emphasis on honouring God, and with similar future gatherings now being planned by chaplains and students, one can safely say that, with God’s help, this premier institution of learning is on the right path to producing many God-fearing leaders for our country.
• Rev Seik Pitoi is a freelance writer.